Swingmill Blade Maintenance and Running Costs

A 5 part series on what you need to know about swingmill blades, in this post, we cover maintenance and running costs.

Part 5 of a 5-part series on what you need to know about swingmill blades

A swingmill has a single circular blade that pivots; it moves forward in a horizontal position to make the first cut, pivots to vertical at the end of the log, and then moves back to it’s starting position as it saws in vertical. Your dimensional board can now be removed from the log completely edged and square. The log remains completely still, so there’s no log turning, edging or resawing involved.

Swingmills are the sawmill of choice in the countries they originated from, and around most of the Pacific and Africa.  Petersons in New Zealand were the first in 1989, then Lucas in Australia started manufacturing around 1995. But swingmills are still in the ‘gaining popularity’ phase in many northern-hemisphere countries such as the US, Canada, and Europe, mostly because of lack of information. There are some great internet forums that share a wealth of knowledge on all types of sawmills, including swingmills. Try places like www.forestryforum.com and www.woodweb.com for owners who are more than happy to help you with feedback, maintenance and running costs on the swingmills they run.

Normal Wear of Tips

After a few weeks of serious milling, the tips will get thinner as you sharpen them down. A tip can be used down to about ¼ of it original thickness, or about 1.5mm or 3/64th of an inch thick. Assuming you don’t hit any metal, a set of tips on a swingblade will last about 17,000 board feet, or 40 cubic metres of sawn timber. To get a blade fully retipped, you will pay anywhere from $30-$70 depending on your sawdoctor’s rates.

Hitting Metal

When you hit metal with a bandsaw, the blade is usually a write-off. Hence the requirement to have a couple boxes of spare bandsaw blades on hand at any one time. So that’s around $20 a pop plus your downtime changing blades in the middle of your job.

When you hit metal with a swingblade, you will usually chip 1-4 teeth. One or two missing teeth still leaves you 4-8 good ones that you can still finish the job with. In most cases you can carry on fine. Take the blade home with you at night, and replace the one or two damaged tips yourself with a retipping jig. Or, you can drop the blade into your sawdoctor.

Bottom line, invest in a good metal detector – they will save you money on ANY type of sawmill.


Most swingblade manufacturers supply re-tipping jigs that will assist you in replacing tips in your own garage. You can purchase pre-shaped and pre-tinned tips (with solder and flux on them) to weld on yourself with a basic oxy-acetylene welding set. Basically you need to compare the cost of the jig and tips, versus the downtime getting your blades to a sawdoctor, especially if the nearest one is more than a couple hours away! Retipping costs will be anywhere from $4 for a DIY single tip to $70 for re-tipping and servicing an entire blade.


Loss of tension is caused by forcing your blade through the cut when it’s out of adjustment, when it’s blunt/dull, or if it’s incorrectly spec’d. Tension also goes over time by good old hard work. A good blade can easily last through 2 sets of teeth, or around 34,000 board feet or 80 cubic meters of sawn timber before tensioning is required.

A good sawdoctor will retension your blade during a retip service, for very little extra, if any. You will need to tell your sawdoctor what rpm your blade is running at, and the tooth specifications (spec sheet usually supplied by the manufacturer). Modern sawdoctors will roll-tension your blade, where the blade is rotated while it’s being pressed by two bearings. You will see rings on your blade if it has been roll tensioned. This method distributes tension more effectively, but the old fashioned hammer-tension is still sufficient if carried out by a skilled sawdoctor. A tension service on its own can cost anywhere from $10 to $40.

Blade Maintenance Time & Costs Summary

Setting aside for the moment the arguments between bandsaws and swingmills regarding production rates and recovery rates, lets look at typical blade maintenance costs only. This is assuming both mills cut exactly the same amount of timber (1900bft or 4.5cubes) in an 8-hour day, and that neither hit metal. Here is a pretty comprehensive table that has been drawn up from data from two operators using the two different machines in the field. Typical blade maintenance costs and usage periods like these can also be found on the forums mentioned above.

Recommended Sawdoctors (Blade Maintenance Service Providers)

When you take your blade in for its first re-tipping, you will need to give your sawdoctor the manufacturer’s specification sheet which will show the correct tooth size and width required, and the hook and rake angles. When the blade comes back, compare it to the other one you have. Then take note of the blade’s performance on the mill, and give your sawdoctor some feedback. He might not get it perfect for you the first time ‘round, so he does need to know what to change to get it just right. And once you gain confidence in your sawdoctor, it would be great to recommend him to other swingblade mill owners.

Here are just some of the many sawdoctors that swingmill customers use for their blades, and whom they have referred to us as all-round good service providers. I’m sure there are many more, but at least this is somewhere to start!

There are 4 more sections of this article:
· Swingmill Blade Maintenance
· Re-Tipping & Sharpening
· Plate (Body), Gullets & Tensioning
· Blade Adjustments to Run True

Acme Saw & Supply
1204 E Main Street
Stockton, CA 95205
Ph: (209) 948 6735
Saw Performance Specialist Inc.
5322 Hwy 2 East
Columbia Fall, MT
Ph: (406) 756 7297
Chris Cringle’s Saw Shop
131 U Street
Eureka, CA
Ph: (707) 442 6431
Ray Lynn (works AH from home)
205 Wiggins Road
Tallicon Plains, TN
Ph: (423) 253 7239
Country Saw & Knife Inc.
1375 W. State Street
Salem, OH, 44460
Ph: (330) 332 1611
Tollfree: (888) 639 7297
Service Saw & Tool Corp.
1621 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314
Ph: (515) 282 7038
Byrne Sawmill Services
18 Old D’Evereaux St.
Natches, MS 39121
Ph: 601-442-7363
Allen Guilliams
156 Cole Road
Winnfield, LA
Ph: (318) 628 5461 (BH + AH)

4800 Solvay Rd
Jamesville, NY 13078
1-800-952-8288 (TOLL FREE)
1-315-492-4044 (fax)
Email: u-cut@u-cut.com.

B.H. Payne & Company, Inc.
1657 Taylor Ave., East Point, GA 30344 USA
Tel: (404) 761-8711, Fax: (404) 761-5398
Toll Free: 1-800-752-0627
Email: info@paynesaws.com
Nashville Saw Division
861 A Springfield Hwy.
Goodlettsville, TN 37072
Ph: 615.859.1800
Fax: 615.859.0808
Oregon Carbide Saw Corp
1713 South East 7th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
Ph: 503-235-8559
Fax: 503-235-8550
McGuiness Saw Service

Mayer, AZ
Ph: (928) 632 9405

Portland Saw Works
2005 SE 8th AVE
Portland, OR 97214
Ph: 503 236 8191
Carolina Cutting Tools
150 Park Avenue
Newberry, SC 29108
Ph: 803 321 1915
Tollfree: 1888 887 SAWS
Cell: 803 824 7392
Fax: 803 276 0915
Jorson & Carlson Co.
1510 Ohio St
Des Moines, IA, 50314
Ph: 515-282-7038
Email: khahn@jorsonandcarlson.com
Alabama Saw Company
112 Chula Vista Drive, PO Box 770
Pell City, AL 35125
Ph: 205.884.4971
Fax: 205.338.3386
Memphis Saw Division
8529 Aaron Lane
Southaven, MS 38671
Ph: 662.393.0488
Fax: 662.393.1161
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